Friday, September 24, 2010

True Love Story Part 3: In Good Times and in Bad

This week, I've let you take a peek into the early days and months of my relationship with my hubby. So far, you've seen how and where we met, you've traveled on a canoe trip with us and our friend Phil, and are probably wondering how we ever made it down the aisle. But never fear, on January 1, 1994 we stood before God and a motley assortment of family and friends and pledged or love and commitment for the rest of our lives.

If you'd like to read the final installment of our Real Life Romance, click here. If you leave a comment, you may be the winner of a copy of Shannon's book White Roses.

Next week, we'll return to regular programming.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

White Roses by Shannon Taylor Vannatter

This week we are taking a little detour down Romance Lane. If you've been keeping up with our True Love Story on Shannon Vannatter's blog, then you also know she is giving away a copy of her book to some lucky comment-er.

I had the good fortune to read Shannon's book this summer and wrote reviews that will appear on,, Shelfari, and when the book releases later this fall.

I've re-printed my review here if you want to read what I thought of Shannon's book. Join me on Friday as Shannon shares the last part of the story--the wedding day.

Book Review of Shannon Taylor Vannatter's White Roses

How could anyone know that one fateful day, one selfish choice, one man could cause the ripples of grief to reach into so many lives? In Shannon Taylor Vannatter's Christian contemporary romance, White Roses, we are introduced to two families--Pastor Grayson Sterling, his young son Dayne, and his sister Sara; and brother and sister team, Mark and Adrea Welch.

A drunk driver left Grayson without his beloved wife and Dayne without his devoted mother two years ago. Sara steps in to try and help her brother, but Grayson can't seem to get over the loss of his wife. Longing for some time to focus on Dayne and heal from his loss, Grayson convinces his church to hire an associate pastor. Enter Mark Welch and his beautiful and loyal sister Adrea. In a unique turn of events, Grayson comes face-to-face with the florist who has been creating the arrangements of white roses he ordered for his wife Sara. The arrangements he faithfully presented to her during their life together, he now leaves at her grave.

Grayson and Adrea find themselves unable to deny that their pain and loss on Valentine's Day three years before is the only thing drawing them together. But fears and secrets, all grounded in the past, seem determined to drive them apart.

Vannatter, a pastor's wife, knows the ins and outs of church leadership and uses that knowledge to give the reader glimpses of the real-life struggles and humanness of those called into ministry. In a refreshing, easy-to-read style, Vannatter shows the reader true-to-life believers wresting with the same things we all do: fear, doubt, forgiveness, and anger. There are no squeaky clean, never-fail Christians in this book. Rather the reader will meet believers trying to do the right thing, sometimes succeeding and sometimes failing, in the face of difficult circumstances. The reader is likely to recognize himself or herself in one or many of Vannatter's unique characters.

Vannatter develops both the story and the characters to a satisfying conclusion, teaching us all a lesson about trusting God and remaining faithful even in the midst of the most heart-rending circumstances. Readers of contemporary romance will enjoy the believable characters and the universal themes portrayed in this delightful story that is compact enough to enjoy in a weekend or even one late-night read.

Nikki Studebaker Barcus

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Ture Love Story: Part 2 Maybe He's Trying to Tell Us Something

We continue with Part 2 of the True Love Story on Shannon Taylor Vannatter's blog this week. Today's post features a few stories from our dating life--all that include a character named Phil.

Phil is a friend of my hubby's and we started to get the feeling that either Phil didn't approve of our relationship, or that God didn't and was using Phil to tell us so.

Click here to go to Shannon's website where you can read the next installment. Leave a comment to be entered to win a copy of Shannon's book White Roses. Tomorrow I'll post a review of Shannon's book so you can read all about it.

Nikki Studebaker Barcus

Monday, September 20, 2010

True Love Story: Part 1 Toilet Tissue Romance

We are going to break from the norm this week on celebration of my True Love Story running on Shannon Taylor Vannatter's website this week. I wrote the 3-part story to help Shannon give away a copy of her book White Roses a sweet, contemporary romance published by Heartsong.

The book is available now to Heartsong Club members and will be release mass-market in November. If you leave a comment on my story this week, though, you get a chance to win a copy! Cool!

Just click on Real Life Romance--Part 1 of 3 to read the Real Life Romance on how I met my hubby. Click over Wednesday and Friday to read more.

Nikki Studebaker Barcus

Friday, September 17, 2010

An Apple a Day...Keeps Satan at Bay

"An apple a day keeps the doctor away" is how the old saying goes, right? Apples are great for you and tasty too, but that's not what we're going to talk about today.

September 18 is International Eat an Apple Day, so in celebration of that momentous occasion, let's look at how an A.P.P.L.E a day can not only keep the doctor away, but also goes a long way toward keeping Satan at bay. Ironic, don't you think considering how many people attribute the apple with fouling Adam and Eve up so long ago in the Garden?

A--Adoration. The first step in keeping Satan from gaining a foothold with our kids is to adore them. Yeah, I know, we all love our kids, but I'm talking more than that. I'm talking about letting your child know s/he is the "apple of your eye". (Sorry, couldn't resist.) If you aren't head over heels about your child, really, who else will be other than probably Grandma. Teachers, coaches, friends--they all care about your kid, but none is as invested as you are and none will be there for the long haul. Find the stuff in your child you can adore--then let them in on the secret.

P--Prayer. We live in the middle of a battlefield whether we can see it or not. Prayer is the biggest weapon in our arsenal and we better get pretty liberal at pulling out this big gun. Cover your child in prayer or you leave him/her open to attacks from Satan.

P--Perspective. If you want your child to thrive in this life, you are going to need some perspective. What I mean is that first of all, you've got to get both an eternal and a long-term view of this parenting thing. You are going to have good days and bad days and days that make you question everything you've ever known to be true. Remember you are growing an eternal being and you are in it for the duration. Look at things with that attitude and today's struggles come into focus a little clearer.

I also mean you need perspective about your child's strengths and weaknesses. I know I just told you to adore you kid, but don't feed into their esteem so much that they can't recognize any faults in themselves. Help them learn the great and the not-so-great so they can become the people God created them to be.

L--Leadership. A sure way to protect your kids is to lead them well. This involves displaying patience when you want to scream, integrity when you want to fudge, strength when you want to buckle, wisdom when you don't have the answers, and grace in the face of adversity. By modeling the way things should be done, you lead your kids by example and they will often rise up to follow. Leadership is not a dictatorship or a democracy--you are the adult, act like it. Make the hard decisions, call the unpopular shots, and live out a life of character with each new situation.

E--Education. It is not the job of the school, the church, or the babysitter to teach our kids. We need to make the most of every opportunity to mold and shape our kids into people we will be proud to claim. That means using every moment to explain, challenge, disciple, and discipline our kids. Seize every chance to guide and direct their learning, whether it be academic, relational, spiritual, or emotional. We are the best teacher our child will ever have. Make the most of every moment you can grab with your son or daughter.

So, there you have it--an A.P.P.L.E. a day will keep Satan at bay. Grab some caramel sauce, an apple, and your kid, and get started today!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Grab Some Chinese Take-Out--It's National Fortune Cookie Day!

Crab Rangoon...Egg Drop Soup...General Tao's Chicken. My family has a love affair with Chinese food. Actually the kids love any kind of buffet-style dining so they can choose the things they like, which generally consist of everything yellow or beige on the slab.

The crowning moment of the meal (after they hit the self-serve ice cream cooler) is the arrival of the fortune cookies. We each grab a package, tear it open and laugh or wonder at the message inside. The fortune on his tiny paper is one of the first things Jot ever read aloud to the the rest of the family. It is a fun ending to an enjoyable time together.

Recently we each got a fortune so fitting to us personally that we could have submitted them ourselves. All ten blue eyes widened, all ten eyebrows shot to our hairlines, and all five mouths hung open, but after a moment's thought, we shook our heads and laughed. We don't leave our futures to fortune cookies, fate, or chance. No matter how accurate the fortune, we remember what God has said in Psalm 139:15-17: My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

You were not a mistake, surprise, or unplanned blessing, regardless of what your parents said. You were carefully pieced together, planned out, created with care. Your journeys were set in motion long before you drew your first breath. God knew you, and your entire life, long before, as they say, you were even a twinkle in your daddy's eye.

So the next time you feast on Chinese, crack open that fortune cookie, have a good laugh, and thank God that your future rests securely in the hands of a loving Father, not in the proclamation of a tiny slip of paper.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Stump, Duck, Bridge

Summer is winding down and most people's minds have turned toward fall. Recently we took the camper out for one more weekend before we winterized it and put it away until after the crops are in the field next spring. We hiked, we swam, we ate s'mores by the fire, and biked the beautiful paved biking trail at the state park. But that was a little too tame for the "rules-are-made-to-be-broken" men in my life.

So just before we packed up and headed for home we set out on a bike ride. We biked the 2.6 mile trial and then decide to take a short cut back to the campsite along walking trail #5. Hubby led the way followed by Jewel. Justice wasn't along for this ride, so Jot followed his sister with me bringing up the rear. Years and years of hikers' feet had beaten the path down to a smooth dirt trail, but occasionally roots or stumps jutted up from the brown road. Periodically, branches hung down low enough for us to catch one in the eye if we weren't careful. And strewn along the lovely path were rickety wooden bridges crossing trickling clear streams. As we traveled along, Jot took on the role of my bicycle tour guide. "Stump!" he'd yell so I'd know to watch the ground. "Duck!" came the command when he thought a limb came too close for comfort. And I knew to slow down and keep it steady when he yelled "Bridge!"  Jot let me know what to expect on our bike ride. There were no sudden turns, heart-stopping surprises, or close calls because I knew what was coming.
Jot's kind protection of me reminded me that God does that for us too. He gave us the Bible so we'd know what to expect. I've heard others refer to God's word as a "road map for life" and in reality, it is just that. Now, don't go randomly opening up your Bible and see what will tell you. And don't try to divine tomorrow's lotto numbers from some secret formula. That's not what I'm talking about. Some people say the Bible is full of "dos" and "don'ts" but really it is just God yelling out to us "Stump!" or "Duck!" or "Bridge!" God is wise and He knows that oftentimes when we do A we get B. So He warns us and encourages certain behaviors because He knows the outcomes that fall from them.

God says things like: The wise don't tell everything they know, but the foolish talk too much and are ruined (Proverbs 10:14). Or like this: A beautiful woman without good sense is like a gold ring in a pig's snout (Proverbs 11:22). And like this: Peace of mind means a healthy body, but jealousy will rot your bones (Proverbs 14:30).. God doesn't say "don't talk" or "don't fall for beautiful women" or that "you will never be sick if you aren't jealous", but He gives us warnings to be on our guard against. There are countless warnings to us throughout the Bible. If you are in need of a road map for your life, start reading in the book of Proverbs and then branch out from there. Don't picture the words as coming from a grumpy old man trying to ruin your fun. Accept the truths found there as from a loving father, calling out the pot holes in the bike trail of life so you can avoid the pain and scars associated with them.

Ride on!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Labor Day Lessons

Recently a friend, who was great with child, had the following conversation with a young teen at church.

Teen: Wow! When are you due?

Friend: Actually, today is my due date.

Teen: (With horrified expression) What time?!

For all of you mommies and daddies out there, I hear you--If only it were that easy! Babies are notorious for taking there own time getting here. I'm thankful that all three of my bundles of joy arrived a little before there ETA.

The morning of Justice's arrival I knew something was up as soon as I got out of bed that morning. I warned hubby that he might want to work close to a phone that day. (That was before we had cell phones, can you imagine?) It also happened to be both New Year's Day and our fourth anniversary, so we spent the day putting around the house. That afternoon, during a nap, my water broke and we were off to the races.

Jewel made her debut slowly, like she still does in all aspects of life. Thirty-six hours of hit-and-miss contractions finally crescendoed into full-blown labor in the still-dark wee morning hours on a Sunday in July.

Jot, true to form, woke me early on a Saturday morning with contractions that weren't long enough or regular enough to send me to the hospital, but decided to wait until I had finished giving both his brother and sister a bath. There we were, crammed into the bathroom together, Justice wrapped only in a towel, Jewel poised dangling from my hands half in and half out of the tub when my water broke. As hubby finished up the last of the field work, I re-dressed myself, dressed the two kids, called for back-ups, and loaded the van. Hubby arrived just in time to drive to the hospital and Jot arrived just in time for dinner.

It is ironic that this Labor Day weekend found me sorting through baby clothes and reminiscing over "labor" days of the past. The kids are switching rooms and the closet we've always used as storage will soon be Justice's, so the baby gear has to go. It is also ironic that I made the kids help and they repeatedly told me that it was so unfair that they were made to work on Labor Day--a holiday!

But God reminded me of a truth in all my remembering--babies aren't on anybodies time schedule. They arrive when they are good and ready and at just the right time. That's the way it is with God, too. I can't count the times when God has waited right down to the wire for something to happen. The saying goes, God is rarely early, never late, but always right on time. That's been true in my life and in the lives of countless other people. Although I wish that God had a "hurry-up" button (along with the "easy" button I also wish He had), He has never let me down. He's never missed an important date, arrived just a moment too late, or failed to show up when the chips were on the table.

Just like babies, God arrives right on time, every time.